The on-again, off-again buzz about a Sprint merger with T-Mobile is on again, thanks to comments by T-Mobile executives.
Reports from an industry conference in New York center on their comments that link the No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers as candidates for combination.
T-Mobile’s chief financial officer, Braxton Carter, told Reuters that a deal with No. 3 Sprint would be “the logical ultimate combination.” Reuters said Carter declined to say whether the two firms had talked.
Other executives of the upstart No. 4 carrier also raised the idea of building a bigger No. 3 carrier, according to Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche in a note to clients.
Officials with Overland Park-based Sprint declined to comment.
Shares of T-Mobile rose 64 cents, closing at $26.08. Sprint shares sank to $6.04 in the morning but rallied and ended the day at $6.19, unchanged.
Fritzsche wrote that T-Mobile management said “further (wireless) carrier consolidation is a matter of when, not if” and to not rule out entry of a new player in the industry.
Her note also cited T-Mobile executives as saying that a larger No. 3 carrier could create a more competitive environment than having four carriers. She said they don’t believe Washington is fixed on having four national carriers.
However, regulators derailed AT&T’s $39 billion deal in 2011 to buy T-Mobile. News of their potential merger had come amid heavy rumors that Sprint was about to land a T-Mobile merger.
Instead, Sprint, led by chief executive Dan Hesse, campaigned hard against the AT&T deal, saying it would leave AT&T and Verizon as a “duopoly” that would essentially control the market.